The identities of the record-breaking US$1.6 billion Powerball winners are still unknown. But one thing that is known is what they will be giving up: their anonymity.
With Powerball reaching a fever pitch across North America, and even around the world, people want to know more about the lucky winners from California, Tennessee and Florida. In the U.S., only six states allow winners to remain anonymous: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.
Lotteries generate incredible public interest and in turn incredible publicity, and can be a nightmare for the winners as people come out of the woodwork looking for a piece of the prize.
Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago securities attorney who’s represented winners before, says it’s “unconscionable” that Powerball publicly identifies the winners.
“These people are literally going to be the most heavily stalked individuals in the world for the next three months at least,” he said. “It’s horrible. In my opinion, Powerball releasing the names of these folks is unconscionable.”
Stoltmann advises winners to build a financial team of lawyers, accountants and financial advisers. And he thinks they should disappear online, scrubbing all social media accounts and email addresses from the Internet.
In Canada, winners often have to consent to having their name and photo published in order to receive their prize.
According to the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, the lottery doesn’t have to pay up unless the winner agrees to their conditions which include the right to publish the winner’s name, city, and even a recent photograph.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and the Atlantic Lottery Corp., which run national lotteries in Ontario and Atlantic Canada respectively, have similar policies.
“Winner information is released to the news media and may be used in OLG’s advertising,” says OLG. “For every prizewinner there are a number of other players who did not win but have a legitimate desire to know that someone won.”
Giving up your right to a private life can also have tragic and dire consequences.
A Florida man, Abraham Shakespeare, won US$30 million in the 2009 state lottery and met DeeDee Moore shortly after his win became public.
Authorities say Moore shot Shakespeare twice in the chest and buried his body under a slab of cement in a backyard. Moore was convicted in 2012 of first-degree murder.
In 2013, a Chicago dry cleaner won on a $1 million scratch-and-win ticket and was poisoned with cyanide hours after collecting his winnings.
In China, government-run lotteries not only withhold the personal information of winners but take unusual, and cute, steps to protect their identities.
During the live televised broadcasts where the winners are presented with their winnings, they can dress up in costumes and have dressed as everything from a bear to Mickey Mouse and even Spiderman.
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